Social Media Having an Impact on Email

Dec 07, 2010 2:10 AM  By

Renting lists. Blanketing your site with sign up forms. Snail mailing to get opt-ins. Direct marketers, pure play e-tailers, multichannel merchants and even local businesses go to great lengths to build up their email lists, but are they overlooking simpler, new, more effective methods?

If you’re still using outdated methods exclusively, you should consider some new findings that suggest there may be a less intrusive alternative: offering consumers the ability to opt-in through social networking sites.

Twenty-five percent of recent automobile purchasers and 20% of recent appliance purchasers were very interested or extremely interested in having the ability to opt-in through social networking sites to receive regular email communications from automobile and appliance marketers, according to a recent study by ROI Research.

When you consider that most social media users that follow brands in these industries have already expressed an affinity for or interest in these brands, it only makes sense that followers would be even more likely to opt-in. So a well known automotive brand with 100,000 followers could hypothetically convert 24,000 or more followers into email subscribers with relative ease when compared to other list building alternatives, and this example doesn’t even consider the power of friends sharing with friends on social networks.

In fact, friend referrals can enable opt-in programs like these to trigger exponential growth based on the fact that customers are likely to follow brands that their friends follow. According to the same study, 35% of recent telecommunications purchasers and 28% of recent financial services purchasers decided to follow or become a fan of a brand/retailer simply because their friends did. Demonstrating whose friends and followers signed up on social networking sites to receive email messages could likely trigger the same exponential growth.

In addition to being fertile ground for harvesting email opt-ins, social media also offers marketers a unique ability to tap a robust set of demographic and psychographic information to boost the effectiveness of email campaigns. The personal data offered by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other networks enable companies to identify the specific interests of their email subscribers and tailor the content they send accordingly.

If a consumer decides to fan Dick’s Sporting Goods because of a passion for fly fishing, then Dick’s should provide that person fly fishing oriented and related emails. Likewise, retailers selling a variety of products that stretch their business operations should not risk upsetting existing customers by failing to identify how to best serve their interests.

Just because I am a fan of Nike running shoes, for example, doesn’t mean I am interested in hearing about Nike’s newest line of golf clubs. In fact, respondents said they were very interested in having the ability to create profiles on social networking sites with the brands they fan and follow in order to receive content that is tailored to their interests.

Leveraging the rich data set offered by social media to narrowly tailor email content according to recipients’ interests can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Building up emails lists doesn’t have to be as difficult as it once was, because social networking sites can easily help marketers more effectively strengthen their lists. Maybe it is time you considered leapfrogging the competition by incorporating social media into your email marketing strategy.

Justin Gottlieb is a research analyst at ROI Research.